Library decision ‘can’t be rushed’

The outside of The Chantry building in Morpeth.
The outside of The Chantry building in Morpeth.

Northumberland County Council has been urged to discuss the potential new library location in Morpeth with all relevant parties before making a decision.

The masterplan update drop-in event at the Town Hall earlier this month included an information board saying that the local authority is ‘considering relocation of the library and customer services into The Chantry, integrated with visitor information’.

The library is currently located at a building in Manchester Street under a temporary arrangement.

A craft centre, the Northern Poetry Library and the Bagpipe Museum are also currently in place at The Chantry and the information board says the proposal ‘could affect space available for other uses’.

Residents are being asked to give their views in an online survey.

Although accepting that detailed proposals have yet to be put forward, Kim Bibby-Wilson has raised some potential concerns about the impact of moving the library to The Chantry.

The Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering committee chairman and member of the Morpeth Antiquarian Society, among other groups, said: “Attempting to house the library and customer services in an unaltered Chantry building would create a greater number of problems for the facilities already located there, a matter not touched on in the drop-in information panels.

“Legal agreements in place mean that the Bagpipe Museum cannot easily be moved from the building and already the Northern Poetry Library is now operating from space in the Chantry.

“Surely a brief extension of the library lease should be sought to create a breathing space.

“A proper consultation with all the stakeholders should then be carried out, exploring not just the finances of a single building, but the wider ramifications for public facilities, tourism and the town’s economy.

“Fitting the library into the Chantry along with other services could be done by investing in sympathetic extensions and reversible alterations to the building, perfectly possible even in a listed building.

“Indeed, there was a study done a while ago by the Woodhorn Trust that looked at such matters.

“The county council is spending a huge amount of money at Alnwick where the authority has bought the Playhouse to adapt it to accommodate that town’s library, information and tourism services.

“In addition, Ponteland is having a new leisure centre built. Therefore, with some investment and an inspired vision, it is not impossible to work wonders even in this austerity-blighted era.”

A county council spokesman said: “We are working with a range of stakeholders to develop a masterplan on how the town develops over the next few years.

“The future use of The Chantry building is key to this process and we’re keen to hear as many views as possible from the local community on what they would like to see on this site.

“While clearly there is only limited space, we are looking at a number of possible configurations for the building. Once we have ​analysed and considered ​all the feedback from the online survey, we will look to share the next steps with residents.”

To take part in the survey, which is running until August 3, go to https://bit.ly/2KJ9H64